In our last installment, we found a Passage Through Mirkwood while playtesting our newly made Leadership/Lore deck. Before we continue on our path to the next core set scenario, we are going to catch our breath and take stock of things. If we want to have a good chance of succeeding in our Journey Along the Anduin, we will need to make some changes to our deck. Deck tuning is an invaluable skill, especially because we are only using cards from the core set to build our deck. With such a limited card pool, there are admittedly fewer decisions to make, but those decisions still matter a great deal. As we saw in our playtesting, where a lack of healing caused us to lose one of our heroes, the cards that you don’t draw can be as important as the ones that you do.
In this article, we will look ahead to the next scenario as well as looking back on what worked, and didn’t work, in the first scenario. After losing Theodred to the nasty combination of Dol Guldur Orcs’ “when revealed” effect and The Necromancer’s Reach, we know that we need as much healing in the deck as possible. Since our deck does not include Spirit, we do not possess any way to cancel “when revealed” effects like those of the Orcs and treacheries. The Necromancer’s reach, specifically can also be avoided by not exhausting your heroes, but this more easily said than done.
Aragorn’s ability allows him to ready after he commits to the quest, so long as you can spare the resource. This is a great example of where abilities can be more powerful than they might first seem. Not only do we get to use Aragorn to perform multiple actions in a round, but encounter effects that target exhausted characters will not effect him. Additionally, we can use a readied Aragorn with Common Cause to ready another hero like Denethor to help defend or use his scrying ability. Still, the Dunedain is the only character in the deck that can ready himself, and Common Cause requires one hero to be exhausted in order to ready another, so it doesn’t really solve this problem. Since we can’t cancel the treacheries, we will find room for 1 more Daughter of the Nimrodel and try to weather them as best we can.
Other than healing, our deck seemed to perform pretty well in the first scenario, but it would be a nice to have a way to get to the cards that we need more quickly. With even bigger enemies starting in the staging area, we are going to need to find our answers as quickly as possible. We already include both copies of Forest Snare in our deck, so the logical next step is to provide more ways to draw it. Card draw is often a very good thing to add when tuning a deck, especially if you feel that your deck meets all of the goals that you designed it with. Card draw effectively makes a deck smaller, which means that it will perform more consistently. We currently have both copies of Gleowine in our deck, so the only other option in the core set is Valiant Sacrifice. This card can be risky, as it requires an ally to leave play before you can trigger it. However, with limited options and a starting threat of 28, it is very likely that we will have to chump block at least once in the upcoming scenario. Once we get Steward of Gondor out with enough allies, it will definitely be worth it to sacrifice one in order to draw 2 cards. In any case, Forest Snare is so vital to our survival in the upcoming Journey Along the Anduin, that we will take the risk and add two copies of Valiant Sacrifice to try and help us get to the trap more quickly.
In all of this talk of the next scenario, we have been ignoring the elephant (or troll) in the room. With a massive 6 attack, 3 defense and 9 hit points, the Hill Troll is a real problem. The fact that he will start in the staging area in the first round means that we need to find a solution to him as quickly as possible. Realistically, our deck is not going to be able to fight toe-to-toe with this enemy. His passive effect means that we cannot afford to keep chump blocking him, even if we can spare the allies. The threat increase that results from throwing week allies at the troll is just too dangerous. Even if we could afford to use Aragorn, our best attacker, to defend against him, our ranger would not last long. The troll’s powerful attack, combined with any of a number of nasty shadow effects, would mean that Aragorn departs Middle-Earth for the Halls of Mandos. What we need is a way to prevent the troll from attacking while we slowly hack through that tough skin off his and eventually subdue him. Our solution will be a nice combo that we had already included for dealing with Ungoliant’s Spawn in the first scenario.
For 3 Leadership resources, Son of Arnor gives us a nice attacker with the added bonus that he can force an enemy to engage us during the planning phase. If we can get lucky, and draw Son of Arnor and Forest Snare within our first couple of hands, the goal will be to trap the troll before it can ever attack us. By playing the Son of Arnor in one of the early rounds, before the troll has engaged, we can immediately play Forest Snare on the troll so that it never even takes a swing at us. With two copies of Hill Troll in the encounter deck we will then hope that his friend doesn’t show up to see what all the cursing and screaming is about. We will have to kill the trapped troll before we can progress to the second stage, and hopefully by then we will have enough allies that a certain Gondorian ranger can help push us through to the final stage.
So, after planning for the epic battle with the Hill Troll, we have decided to add 1 copy of Daughter of Nimrodel and 2 copies of Valiant Sacrifice to our deck. Since Valiant Sacrifice needs an ally to leave play, we will also add 1 more copy of Snowbourn Scout. Next, we have to determine which cards to cut in order to make room for these new cards.
Looking at the scenario that we will be tackling, some of the locations have very high threat, which will make a card like Secret Paths quite valuable. On the other hand, many enemies like the Hill Troll have low threat, making a card like Radagast’s Cunning less useful. Instead of removing any allies, which would also potentially reduce the effectiveness of Valiant Sacrifice, let’s cut 2 copies of Radagast’s Cunning to make room for the extra Snowbourn Scout and Daughter of Nimrodel. It is also worth noting, having more allies makes Faramir’s ability that much more powerful, which will come in handy when we come to the second stage of the upcoming scenario.
Lastly, we need to find room for those 2 copies of Valiant Sacrifice. While Common Cause was useful in previous playtesting, we did end up with an extra copy of it in our hand at the end of the game. Also, since it requires us to exhaust a hero to ready another one, we don’t really come out ahead in the bargain. Valiant Sacrifice, on the other hand, costs 1, and has a conditional trigger, but when it works we come out ahead by 1 card. In a scenario where we are trying frantically to find our traps, 1 card can make all of the difference. So finally, we will cut 2 copies of Common Cause to make room for 2 copies of Valiant Sacrifice. With all of these changes, our revised deck looks like this:
That will do it for today. The bees are buzzing and there is honey to be collected. Have a great weekend everyone, and check back soon as we continue on down Beorn’s Path. Next up, we will be taking a Journey Along the Anduin, where we must defeat the terrible Hill Troll.